The Newfoundland is a member of the American Kennel Club’s Working Group, and they live up to the reputation of a working dog. They are used as draft animals, for search and rescue, for water rescue, as guardians of property and families, as therapy dogs and for landing fishing nets. In their native Newfoundland they were used to haul harvested wood, carry boat lines to shore, carry lifelines to boats, rescue children, fetch items that fell overboard, supply power for the blacksmith, as a pack animal and cart puller. They are equally at home in the water or on land, and their history for water rescues are renowned worldwide. Due to their versatility in many fields, they are used in carting, agility, obedience, confirmation, drafting and water tests, and tracking competitions.
While it is thought that the breed originated in Newfoundland, from stock brought across the ocean by European fishermen, their ancestry is a bit muddy. There are many different opinions on who their antecedents were. Theories are: that they are a cross between local dogs and Tibetan Mastiffs; a descendent of a nomadic Indian dog or a Viking Karelian (a spitz type dog); or a descendent of a French Boarhound, Great Pyrenees, even a cross with a Labrador.
During World War II during blizzards in the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, Newfoundlands were used for hauling ammunition and supplies. In 1919, a Newfoundland that pulled a lifeboat with twenty shipwreck survivors to safety received a gold medal. Another Newfie is noted for rescuing 53 people from a shipwreck. They are used in Europe to patrol beaches. The Coast Guard and Navy Seals are using Newfies trained to jump from helicopters for water rescues. A woman in Janesville, Wisconsin even stated that her Newfoundland towed her stepfather’s car out of a snow drift.
Last but not least, there is mention of a Newfoundland named Rigel who may have swum in the icy waters of the North Atlantic for three hours before barking to alert a rescue ship. There is a mention of him in the book The Sinking of Titanic and Great Sea Disasters and an article in the New York Herald the day the Carpathia docked with survivors, but no other concrete evidence seems to be available. His legend is immortalized in The Legend of Rigel: Hero Dog of the Titanic, by Christine Jamesson.
There are several famous Newfies in history; even the White House was not adverse to their charms. Faithful was owned by Jesse Grant, the son of Ulysses S. Grant. Hector was owned by Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Buchanan had a female named Lara, who reportedly kept an eye on her owner by lying with one eye closed and one open for hours at a time. In the original version of Peter Pan, Nana the dog was a Newfoundland. Lewis and Clark took a Newfoundland named Seaman on their expedition. The Landseer was made famous by artist Sir Edwin Landseer, who painted many pictures of this black and white variety. Other colors allowed are black, brown and gray.
Newfoundlands have a life expectancy of between nine and fifteen years. Adult females weigh between 100 to 120 pounds and stand between 25 and 27 inches at the shoulder. Males weigh between 130 and 150 pounds and stand between 27 and 29 inches at the shoulder. They are prone to hip dysplasia and sub-aortic stenosis, a hereditary heart disease. The Newfoundland was recognized by the AKC in 1886.
A Newfoundland does best in cooler climates, as they don’t do well in hot weather. They need daily exercise, but are content to hang out at home. They do well with a job and are equally as good on land as they are in the water. They have an affinity for water and getting them a kiddie pool is a good idea if you can’t make regular trips to the beach or a lake. They can clean off a low table with one swipe of their tail and drool quite a bit. They shed profusely during shedding season, and they require regular brushing to maintain their coat quality. Due to their sweet disposition, they are good with most other animals, love children and are devoted to their family. Proper socialization and obedience training is a must. As with many other large breeds, a Newfie’s owner must be the alpha dog.
If you are interested in a remarkable, gentle giant that works well in many situations, check out the Newfoundland. If you would like to adopt a rescued Newfie see the Newfoundland Club of America’s website. You can also find information on the AKC’s website.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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